In a firearms twist on what came first, the chicken or the egg, it turns out that, in early America, it was the egg–or, as we know it, gunpowder.
American powder manufacture antedated gun manufacture. A powder mill at Milton, Massachusetts, near Boston, was probably the first. By the beginning of the Revolution, colonists had amassed, by manufacture or capture, 40 tons of black powder. Half went to nearby Cambridge, where it was wasted before George Washington took control of the Revolutionary Army. By the end of 1775, the colonists had no powder left. Scrambling to arm themselves, they built new mills and by war’s end had accumulated 1,000 tons. By 1800, American powder mills were producing 750 tons annually.—Wayne van Zwoll, from the chapter “The Days of White Smoke” in his book Modern Sporting Rifle Cartridges (Stoeger Publishing, 1998)
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About the Author: Jennifer L.S. Pearsall joined Gun Digest in summer 2011 as a books editor. She began her career selling guns in a retail gun shop and handgun range in Northern Virginia in the early 1990s. Recruited by the NRA to join its editorial staff in 1999, she then went on to succeed as a freelance writer and photographer. She's been a competitive shooter in many disciplines, including sporting clays, IPSC, and metallic blackpowder cartridge silhouette, and she has been an avid hunter for many years.
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